At baseline, the goals Nyota conducts her life by are: 1. Survival. 2. Happiness. 3. Growth.
Survival is abnormally difficult to guarantee, given her career choice. But Starfleet is more than worth it, in Nyota’s opinion. Her career lets her see the universe, never mind just the world.
She doesn't gaze up at the stars anymore, she sails through them, flies alongside them, reaches planets and systems where no person has gone before. Goes further, ever pushing. This was a freedom few would ever know. To see it all and then more, again and again. The unknown is more than danger. It is life. All that life can be, could be, just waiting for her to touch.
The adrenaline of solving a puzzle, struggling to work out signals and codes into something understandable as lives hang in the balance, waiting on her to find an answer. Dependent on her ability to save them. The horror and excitement of being forced to struggle, over and over, problems that she’d never before been able to solve, until she finally must, and somehow does. Ever more difficult, always.
The euphoria at surpassing all her thresholds of past as she forces herself to succeed. The lives of the Enterprise cheering in relief, the people of countless planets spared, because of her. Heart racing. This is living.
There was a planet full of androids, where they offered her eternal life. A planet of immortal goddesses, a kind of heaven.
But Nyota could not accept, instead she helped free them. Because an immortal life is worth nothing, if you can not choose how to spend that life. She could not join them, but Nyota gave them something better. The chance for them to make their own way, find themselves. And maybe some of them would see what Nyota saw, and choose like her, and go find their places in the universe, having and experiencing all that they may, tasting freedom each passing day, in a way so few do.
Spock could not understand. He did not live to experience all there was, instead he stood in orbit, ready to follow one man, locked into a million worlds but really only one. James T. Kirk’s world. Nyota can not fault him, but it is not her world.
Once, they shared a world, her and Spock. But Spock wanted to take, and some things Nyota couldn’t give. Her thoughts, her feelings, there were things that belonged to only her. She could not let them be shared. It would have been too much.
The Captain has no qualms, would eagerly give Spock his entire self and more. The universe, if he could, if Spock asked. They are made for each other. But Spock is reluctant, fearful, somehow, that he is not allowed to take what is just waiting. So they dance, locked together. And Nyota can not understand.
But then, she never wanted to be trapped. Can not fathom a force strong enough to have made her content with such a fate.
Christine is not like Spock.
Christine pries, of course. Asks “What’s wrong?” and reminds her softly, that “It’s not healthy to bottle things up, you know.”
But she never takes. She pleads to know what’s wrong, what’s going on inside, and sometimes it’s even enough to compel Nyota to respond. But always on her own terms, feelings and thoughts carefully selected, shared or hidden in appropriate parts. Christine only takes what Nyota gives freely, accepts the shades Nyota paints. Christine never tastes thoughts bubbled up inside, never forces out ideas that Nyota keeps carefully buried, can’t. But even more so, Christine does not try to.
She accepts what is, what Nyota will give and then retreats, politely. They are equals. Mutually benefiting, seeking what they desire, never demanding what isn’t theirs to ask, it is an easy companionship.
Nyota kisses her on the bridge, friendly and warm.
The next morning she finds Christine in the mess hall, and she brings over two coffees. Nyota laughs and smiles like sunshine, flutters her lashes, reaches out and holds Christine’s hand.
Later, Nyota presses Christine into the wall beside her quarters, kissing again, deeper, intent. They fall into bed, and it’s warm and wet, pressing inside each other, Christine’s science blue dress pushed up.
This is easy, just enjoying each other, sharing. Not asking for more. This is enough.
When they first met, they just clicked. Friendship had been almost instant. Then one day Gaila had started flirting, throwing easy smiles and intimate touches. Gaila was beautiful, and wanted what Nyota wanted, and intimacy was inevitable, desired on both ends.
They were friends, lovers, roommates. Bodies melting into each other at any particular time of day. Massages into tense shoulders without the need to ask, bubble baths full of splashing and giggles. They wanted each other, and that was enough.
Gaila loved her, she thinks.
Unendingly, perfectly, fully and truly loved her.
Eventually, they no longer wanted the same thing.
They wanted other partners, to experience all they could and see what else there was. In this, they agreed. Gaila and Nyota found other bodies, other touches worthwhile, and still, when they came home, they had each other too. There was no conflict, they had all they desired. Everything, and still they got to experience whatever might have been more.
When Gaila started selecting lovers Nyota found appalling, she still never stopped being helpful. They decided to become strictly platonic, and it was good. Nyota’s affection for a certain Vulcan had been growing exponentially, and she’d wanted to pursue monogamy anyway.
Gaila always made sure their home was empty when Nyota brought her lover over. Never did Gaila lament that what they’d had was lost. She just gave to Nyota, any way she could. Over and over, without Nyota asking.
She was there, encouraging, as they bemoaned their lover’s issues. She was there, handing Nyota hot tea after a walk through the rain. She was there, always eagerly an emotional stand in for whatever contact Nyota lacked. She was home.
She taught Nyota what home is. Not a place, but the people who let you exist as you are. Home is wherever they are with you.
No matter how far into the unknown Nyota goes, she will always have home nearby.
Gaila loves her. Orions take on many partners, see nothing wrong with their way of doing things. And Nyota gets it.
They want the same thing. Gaila understands.
There is a Princess, and she is a revelation. Her eyes are embers, and red sand licks at her feet like flames.
T’Pring is her name, and she is like Nyota.
She is engaged to Spock, but she rejects him. She rejects the expectations put on her, and instead chooses her desire. She chooses freedom. For her, it is a lover named Stonn.
Sparing Spock from a fate that he would not have willingly freed himself from, he is left to once more to focus on the singular desire that is his captain. One day Spock may have what he wants, his captain giving him everything and more, every feeling and thought, without censor or fear.
But T’Pring will never give him it. Nor will Nyota. Their private selves are their own. They will not be vulnerable. They take what they want, they have it all. They are not taken.
The Princess is like Nyota, and it is unnerving.
Stonn asks for more then she will give, and she is gone. She is bored, done, she wants something else. He is left in dust, and her people react with shame and bewilderment at such disregard for her shackles. She does not care. What she does is rational, is right, regardless of if others acknowledge or understand. She is sure.
Soon enough, T’Pring intersects the Enterprise.
And in her Spock sees a kindred spirit, and so he gives her shelter. They both fall outside of their peoples expectations. They both have logic they know is right, beyond their circumstance. Spock is tied to his love, T’Pring seeks freedom. He would follow his love anywhere, through anything, nothing could hold him from that. She has forsaken all she has known to seek what more there is, could be. To have it all, because it is her right.
She and Spock are both revolutionaries of a kind, but they are not the same.
Reserved and gentle, Spock forever spins closer and closer but never touches. He may wish to take, touch and give things no person would willingly lay bare safe for Jim, but he is considerate. Spock may feel every emotion one day, see every thought his captain hides and shields and forgets he has, but only once it is explicitly given. Over and over, completely certain.
T’Pring is not like him. She consumes everything she touches.
She knows what she wants and does not waste precious time, does not hesitate in needless fear. Her heart is not exposed, her thoughts are closed, only hers. She is like Nyota.
T’Pring is infuriating.
She is ethereal, hair ebony silk, always impeccably put up in elaborate arrangement, eyeliner that rivals Nyota’s in precision and care, silver glitter adorning her eyelids like the nebulae that surround them as they traverse the void. T’Pring stares into Nyota’s very soul, and it’s too much. Far too much.
Spock had to touch Nyota, had to reach out with fingers through nerve points and pull and beg just to glimpse what was going on inside. With a gaze, T’Pring knows more than Nyota has agreed to give. She takes.
T’Pring sits across from her, separated by generous table space. Her hands are not holding Nyota’s, not reaching out and stroking. Her mind is separate, Nyota feels no intrusion. They are truly apart, but somehow it makes no difference.
“Your avoidance of interacting with me is irrational. When you are around me, your pupils dilate, your cheeks flush, your heart rate increases. When you think I am unaware, you stare at my chest unabashedly. Even when you know I am aware, you look at me longer than anyone else does, as if you cannot help it. You are attracted to me. You want me. This is a fact. You may have me.”
Somehow she can reach and take, better then even Nyota, who spends the bulk of her days reading the emotion between words, the implication between gestures, understanding the communication that is beneath mere symbols and sentences. T’Pring is not a communications officer, but still she can strum Nyota like a string, taut and vibrating until she’s all pure sound, sensation. It is terrifying.
She presses a leg forward, between Nyota’s, under the table, delicately touches her calf to Nyota’s. “You are wet for me, maybe even now. So why do you hesitate? Why do you deny yourself?”
Nyota’s face heats up, she pushes herself up and retreats.
T’Pring is like Nyota, and it is unbearable.
Two days later Nyota is walking into a lab to retrieve an instrument she needs to make improvements on her bridge console. Carol Marcus is sprawled on one of the desks, T’Pring between her legs, pinning her down with her lips, pressing into her with her fingers, and when Nyota sees them, T’Pring meets her eyes. They are firm and betray nothing, they see everything, and Nyota leaves quickly the way she came, forgetting what she came for.
There is no reprieve, and T’Pring is across from her at dinner. Nyota can feel her heart clamoring to escape out of her chest.
“It is illogical to be jealous, unless you feel attraction for me. Unless you want me for yourself. As I have already stated, you may have me.”
T’Pring appears patient in this moment, but she is not gentle. Nyota can hear blood pounding in her own ears, is appalled that this woman can make her feel so much. Nyota is jealous. And it is too much, too much, Nyota did not want to give this emotion, this feeling to anyone, this has been taken without her approval and it is more than Nyota ever wanted to experience.
There is no hand holding. T’Pring does not reach across the table and stroke Nyota’s fingers, the way Nyota would have crawled under Christine’s skin and encouraged intimacy. There is no kiss to her temples that sinks into her mind like hooks, like Spock trying to know her when she has not given those things through words, when she does not want anyone to see. There is no equal give and take where all pieces are on the table, and no one is scared, because no one is vulnerable.
There is a gulf of air between them, and it is on fire.
The Princess is right. It would be logical, has always been logical, for Nyota to take what she wants when it is freely given. So why is she terrified? Why is every nerve so raw when T’Pring looks into her?
She wonders if T’Pring will burn her up, if she lets herself be touched.
Nyota is no ones.
Love is a pretty idea, but it is limiting, in her experience. Somehow, she fears she has met someone that could make her want it, that experience. That one she avoids. That one where she must either verbalize the truth or let the perpetrator see the havoc they’ve wreaked upon her. T’Pring could look. Could reach into Nyota’s mind and taste it.
Or she could simply stare, from across a room, and know.
It is a kindness, that T’Pring does not say how much she knows. Nyota does not, of course, love a stranger. Does not give herself to anyone, not even in the privacy of her mind.
But when she thinks of taking T’Pring into her bed, into her body, she somehow doubts she will be satisfied. Nyota sees those molten eyes and wants to sink in deep, wants to meet the liquid core below deceptive calmness, wants to light up like a streaking comet through the night sky. Nyota sees the Princess and her searching for what is worth her honor, in all this universe. Can feel the wall around her like glittering diamonds, and finally Nyota understands why Spock wants so badly to take. To know what it is to have someone and be had. To truly know someone.
Nyota sees herself, a pristine explorer encased in walls, and wonders what company might be like. Wonders if T’Pring wonders too.
To be understood. Even when what is there is not pretty, is not okay.
T’Pring keeps seeing Carol Marcus, and Marcus stops visiting her boyfriend until she no longer has one. Carol is not enough though, and T’Pring starts looking at Christine when they are in the same room.
Nyota comes to stand beside the Princess, but before she can warn her off -- because she knows T’Pring will take more than is offered, because so did Nyota, that is why Christine stopped seeing her. Christine is a romantic, but she will be broken if what she gives is not returned in kind. Not like Nyota, not like T’Pring.
“I am not particularly partial to blondes.” T’Pring turns her body toward Nyota, and there are inches between them but it feels like all air has gone from the space around them. “I find brunettes more enticing, overall.” T’Pring does not reach out, does not tuck a stray lock of Nyota’s hair behind her ear affectionately, but Nyota finds herself wishing she would. “Do you prefer blondes, Lieutenant Uhura?”
“I don’t have a preference.”
“Yes you do.” T’Pring is not talking about hair. She is staring into Nyota’s soul and taking what does not belong to her, answers Nyota is holding onto, because for both of them knowledge is to have the upper hand. “As do I.”
T’Pring walks away, toward Christine, and Nyota is at a loss.
Nyota finds Carol Marcus crying alone in a corridor. Sees her try to hide behind a curtain of short blonde hair and shuffle off, but Nyota grabs her arm and rubs circles into it, and Carol Marcus collapses against her instead, saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’ll stop soon I’m sorry.”
And Nyota understands this. Would rather die alone then have to endure someone seeing her break. She will not make Carol remember this vulnerability later, will not make Carol explain it now. Nyota just holds her and rubs up and down her back, saying “It’s okay. There’s nothing to be sorry for. It’s going to be okay.”
“I was just -- so stupid. So stupid.”
Nyota wants to ask ‘why’, but it is not her place. Carol spews sorries like a mantra between repressed sobs.
“I knew it wasn’t anything. Just -- just a physical thing. I know. I --” Carol is drawing herself together, rebuilding herself in quick pulses, she will stop crying soon, face cold as stone and expressionless as the best Vulcan. She will walk away and bury herself. But Carol is not like Nyota, Carol wants to be opened up and seen for who she is, and her mistake was in not being honest about it. This person she becomes, as she walks away from Nyota and wipes the tears from her memory, is a delusion and she will break again.
Nyota wants to consume T’Pring. Wants to be like her. Wants to be her.
Nyota finds the Princess in a meeting room, finishing up a call on the computer. The room stretches into silence as T’Pring stands and Nyota waits in the doorway.
When T’Pring reaches the exit, Nyota is still waiting there, unrelenting and unafraid. At least, that is what she projects for T’Pring to see, to have.
“Finally,” T’Pring breathes out. She raises a delicate eyebrow. “You seemed so rational, I did wonder why you continued to avoid me.”
“Humans are like that, sometimes.” Nyota smiles.
T’Pring is not what she expects. She does not react in disgust, she is not upset by an admission of illogic. At least, this accepting indifference is what she projects for Nyota to see, to have.
Nyota is an inferno, and she wants to engulf the Princess. Wants to have what is below the surface, what is hidden and precious, what drives this woman to go against expectations and traverse the universe and live her life.
T’Pring waits for her. Waits for Nyota to close the gap, press a kiss to her cheek. Those ember eyes flutter shut, softly, and the bits of glitter clinging to her lashes are like teardrops.
Nyota wonders if T’Pring is even capable of crying.
Perfectly manicured fingers twitch beside shimmering silver fabric, a crack in her composure, and Nyota craves more. Endlessly more. Wants those nails to dig into her shoulder blades and carve desperation into her skin.
T’Pring can not see her, but Nyota still feels made bare.